When Christine Jasmin ’18 was applying to colleges, her first glimpse of Cornell—a video posted on the university website—told her it would be a good match for her eclectic passions.
“It was a video of a student doing an interpretive dance to represent a biological mechanism,” she said. “That was mesmerizing.”
Jasmin, a science-oriented student with a lifelong love of dance, wanted to go to a college that would let her do something like that.
She received the Constance A. Wheary and Joy Youtz Scholarship, created by married couple Jennifer Wheary ’92 and Paul Walker ’93 and named in honor of their mothers to benefit first-generation college students from New York City. (Jennifer Wheary was herself a first-generation student.) Now a senior chemistry major with a business minor, Jasmin says this scholarship gives her the time and freedom to explore the broad educational offerings that drew her to Cornell.
Going her own way, all the way
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Jasmin attended Brooklyn Latin School, a rigorous and diverse high school. While most of her classmates applied to small, liberal arts colleges, Jasmin applied to Cornell with her family’s full support. Her mother wanted her to go to Cornell so much, she wouldn’t let her daughter touch decision letters from other colleges.
“I never even opened those envelopes,” said Jasmin. “My mom was like, ‘The aid at Cornell is wonderful—you’re going.’”
Jasmin arrived in Ithaca as a biology major with “hard-core” plans for medical school. But the excitement of classes that had nothing to do with science or medicine made her question why she was following such a well-worn career path. The organic chemistry course she took her second year inspired her to change her major to chemistry and chemical biology: she loved the challenge of this notoriously difficult class.
“I realized I was very problem-solving driven,” she said. “I like interacting with problems and conquering something hard.”
Similar discoveries in other classes, as well as a desire to be a well-rounded person, inspired Jasmin to study a variety of subjects. She took microeconomics and added a business minor. She also particularly enjoyed an Africana course with Russell Rickford, associate professor of history, called Civil Rights versus Human Rights.
Credit hours started adding up, but Jasmin didn’t back off because she wanted to learn as much as she can at Cornell, all the way through her last year.
“A light load as a senior?” she said. “That’s not happening.”
Finding balance and community
To find personal balance in her rigorous academic schedule, Jasmin dances. She is a co-captain of Sabor Latino Dance Ensemble. The activity brings her joy, mental health, and community.
“Dance is the one thing that’s carried me through since kindergarten, something I’ve always loved,” she said. “No matter how stressful my life is, when I make time for dance, it keeps me centered.”
During dance practices (up to five a week), she doesn’t think about assignments, disappointments, or grades. Instead, rehearsing with her teammates, choreographing dances, and performing lift the weight: “I can express myself and be joyful and happy. Giving myself those pockets of time has been essential.”
The gift of time
Jasmin said that without the scholarship, her life at Cornell would have been very different.
“There’s so much I wouldn’t have been able to do. I wouldn’t have been able to be as involved in my communities on campus because I would have had to work more than one job,” said Jasmin, who fits in a job at the library.
She said the peace of mind of having her scholarship to cover costs has been valuable to her pursuit of broad academic goals. Each year, she writes a letter to update the creators of her scholarship on her evolving educational path.
“Without your support, I am sure the financial burden would have become a massive roadblock on my journey towards success,” she wrote this year. “Now, the path is a bit clearer, and I can focus on becoming the best version of myself that I can be.”